HDCP Error Guide: Causes and Solutions

In the digital age, content has become easier to distribute to multiple sources, meaning that piracy and other digital crimes have become much more accessible. To combat this, corporations have generated mitigation tactics to ensure users can’t distribute content in super high quality. One of these tactics is known as HDCP.

But what do you know about HDCP and what can go wrong with it? Well, we’re here to help with that. We’ve put together this in-depth guide so you can know all there is about HDCP errors and how to combat them.

In this article, we explore what HDCP is, its purpose, some of the causes of HDCP error and a step-by-step guide to resolving HDCP error.

Ready? Let’s go

What is HDCP?

Before we get into the juicy stuff, let’s cover some basics. HDCP stands for High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection, a copyright protection system generated by Intel to curb online piracy and unauthorized access of content.

With the generation of HDMI cables and without HDCP, there would be very little in the way of copyright protection to stop content flowing freely from one source to multiple devices. Intel developed this tool to ensure that pirated versions of audio and visual media can’t be streamed at full quality.

This means that when a user accesses media that is HDCP protected from a non-HDCP-authorised device, they’ll receive a version that is significantly lower quality than the original or none at all.


How does HDCP work and what is its function?

Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, we’ll break down how it works. Firstly, to stop the content from playing or being eavesdropped on, the corporation that owns the rights to the audio or film encrypts the content so it can’t be displayed on anything that isn’t HDCP compliant. Typically, this system is designed to target systems that have been customized to copy content.

A transmitter detects whether the device used is authorized to display the content, and then encrypts the data to stop other devices feeding off the device. Ultimately, this is to stop other devices from viewing the same images as the authorized source and receiver.

If a manufacturer wants to ensure that their quality isn’t interrupted by HDCP protection, they must gain a license from Intel itself that authorizes its systems to play HDCP protected products. This license is obtained on a number of conditions that include the manufacturer ensuring that any content streamed to non-HDCP approved systems must be displayed at a lower quality.

So what is its overall purpose? Well, this use of HDCP is to stop illegal streaming like piracy from gaining lots of revenue that may detract from the original creator’s profit. Its use is to motivate individuals to use more ethical streaming sources that support the creator and authorized platforms so they gain the most profit from the content.

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What causes a HDCP error?

Although this system is super useful for protecting creator rights and putting a spanner in the privacy and eavesdropping works, the system isn’t completely faultless. There are several issues with HDCP, some of which render the entire system useless and interrupt completely legal viewing. Let’s go through a few:

1.    Older HDTVs

It's an ugly truth but age is very a problem when it comes to streaming HDCP encrypted content. Chances are that holder HDTVs don’t have ports necessary to be fully HDCP compliant. This means that a lot of users may face issues with viewing content from perfectly legitimate means.

2.    Can’t turn old monitors with speakers into viewing setups

In an effort to become less wasteful and more economical and resourceful, many of us try to upcycle our old gear. While this is a great way of finding a new life for that old monitor, HDCP prevents users from doing so.

Say for example a user has a monitor with speakers and an old HDMI port and wants to turn it into a TV with an Amazon Firestick, HDCP will probably prevent this due to the device being older and possibly not HDCP compliant.

3.    Handshaking problems

Despite its name, there is absolutely no handshaking here. Handshaking problems refer to issues with the HDMI cables connecting with each other. In this case, devices may refuse to establish a secure connection due to recognition issues. This may be more prevalent in older devices that sit on the edge of compliance.

4.    Control latency

As transmitters have to check that the device is HDCP compliant, this gives the device a lot more hoops to jump through. This means that there can be a delay in either the audio or the visual as the transmitter continuously ensures that the content is clear for use and is encrypted.

This may seriously impact the quality of content that is supposed to be live as the system has to constantly encrypt and decode throughout the stream.

What causes a HDCP error?

How to fix a HDCP error?

So, with so many problems, how do we fix it? Well, there are no easy ways, unfortunately, as this extra system just leads to more ways a device can falter. But, there are some ways we can ensure that the HDCP effect is mitigated to an extent. Let’s explore a few, shall we?

1.    Invest in a totally HDCP compliant device

Now, it might seem ridiculous to invest in an entirely new audio-visual set-up to mitigate the negative impacts of HDCP, but unfortunately, this is the only sure-fire way to get around the issue. Consider switching out your old devices like older HDTV s for more recent and HDCP compliant devices. This is typically the only way you can completely get around the problems and ensure you don’t have any issues in the near future.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!

2.    Unplug both ends of the HDMI cable

If you have handshaking problems, consider unplugging both ends of the device. This can get around any connectivity issues if a loose connection is the root of your problem. If the problem still persists or your device displays a screen that specifically states non-compliance is the issue, then, unfortunately, you’ll need a compliant device.

How to fix a HDCP error?

3.    Get a HDMI splitter

Another way to troubleshoot this issue is to invest in a device that totally bypasses the issue. An HDMI splitter is just the tool for that. A splitter essentially creates a route for the signals that completely ignores the HDCP requests, meaning that it shouldn’t prohibit you from watching encrypted content.

Ensure that you thoroughly research the type of splitter you invest in as this can make or break this task.

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4.    Consider a wireless solution

If none of those options whets your appetite, then one of your last options is to go totally wireless. A wireless connection ensures that it skips the transmission and hardware route entirely. This may only work if you wish to watch specific content from a particular streaming service.

Wireless options include devices like tablets that consist of a screen and no external hardware.

There you go, your comprehensive guide to HDCP errors with causes and solutions. Make sure you check out the rest of Dexon’s blog to see if you can learn any more nifty AV tricks that can improve your experience. Until next time!

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